“A Bunch of Marginal Marauders” or Millions United under an ‘Overlapping Consensus’ to Topple Down the Government?

It has been almost a week since scores of protestors initiated a resistance movement (#DirenGezi) against the incumbent government and its anti-democratic discourse and practices. What had begun as a peaceful sit-down against the demolition of Gezi Park by a few hundred unfolded into massive anti-government demonstrations by hundreds of thousands, even millions across the country. The number of protestors has been soaring ever since despite or maybe due to the spontaneous and dynamic nature of the demonstrations. So has the level of police brutality and violence.

I was in Taksim and Beşiktaş the last few days starting from morning hours till late at night. I was one of the many who suffered from excessive police brutality, and I dare to say, state terrorism. The first water cannon and tear gas attack came in Siraselviler Street in Taksim, where we could at least seek shelter in side streets and nearby cafes, restaurants and houses. In Beşiktaş, however, we were caught unprepared and had nowhere to escape when the police tanks (known as TOMAs, or social intervention vehicles) marched towards unarmed and peaceful protestors and began firing tear gas bombs and water cannons randomly and incessantly at us. I saw thousands trying not to run over fellow protestors while running for their lives. I saw hundreds vomiting tear gas even hours after the TOMA attack, me being one of them.

But who are all these people anyway, suffocating under the thick smoke of tear gas? Why have they gone out to streets in the first place? Who mobilized them? Are they really “a bunch of marginal marauders… manipulated by the opposition” as the Turkish Prime Minister claims?

The simple answer is, NO!

Yesterday, at Gezi Park, my sister and I walked around the park and made spontaneous interviews with fellow protestors that we randomly picked, just to find out ‘who we were’. Amongst those that we talked were Kemalists, socialists, communists, ultra-nationalists, gays and lesbians, Armenians, Kurds, supporters of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), supporters of the Felicity Party (Saadet Partisi), women wearing headscarves, revolutionary Muslims, fans of big football clubs, just ordinary people of all ages, identities and socio-economic backgrounds. Except for the members of a few political party groups, no one had invited or mobilized them. Not all of them shared the same political ideology. To the contrary! Some held completely rival political views with other fellow protestors. Some were not politically oriented at all and did not refrain from admitting that. Most of them were participating in a mass demonstration for the first time in their lives, had brought their children, grandchildren or grandparents with them.

However, all of these protestors had a common denominator: there was ‘an overlapping consensus‘, albeit a silent one, uniting those that represented different ‘comprehensive doctrines” as John Rawls would put it, or who did not champion any doctrine. This is an overlapping consensus on the urgency to topple down the incumbent government and put an end to its anti-democratic practices. This is an overlapping consensus on the urgency to rebuild solidarity and re-forge social bonds amongst fellow citizens, which were long severed.

Turkish Prime Minister keeps saying, “… this is not merely about a couple of trees.. ” Ditto, Mr. Erdogan! Of course it isn’t. Looking at the past few days, I can safely say that it never actually was about a couple of trees. Just as it was never about “a bunch of marauders manipulated by” anyone! Millions are out there filling the streets of Turkey demanding you to step down.

Pin back your ears, Mr. Prime Minister!

Or else, it will be too late!



Turkish Spring has begun: People shout “Against Fascism we stand shoulder to shoulder”

A Norwegian agency has provided live coverage that shows police violence around the French Consulate side (entrance of Taksim Square). In front of them you can hear the people trying to enter the square. We were there yesterday as well.

Welcome to Turkey, welcome to Turkish Spring.

Since yesterday, Turkish people have been rising up and protesting. It started three days ago or so, with a sit-in protest by the public against the government’s unlawful plan to take Taksim Gezi Park and turn it into a residence and shopping mall. Protesters who were camping there were attacked with pepper gas at 5 am the day before. This led to public protests at Taksim and all over Istanbul, starting and continuing as a complete public and spontaneous protest of what all protesters call “the Turkish government’s fascist actions till this moment”. These latest of these include restrictions on the sale and promotion of alcohol. The prime minister explained that this was in line with religious orders, and that two drunken/alcoholic men permitted alcohol into the country, which seems to refer to Kemal Ataturk and Ismet Inonu, leaders of the Turkish Republic. Some big stores have already condemned the government’s actions and announced they will not put a store in the shopping mal. A court stopped the mall/residence bill last night last night, yet the court will also hear from the Minister of Culture to make its final decision.

I joined the protest at Taksim yesterday. None of us could actually reach Taksim Square, which was completely closed off to public by police continuously shooting pepper gas. But people remained, in all the arteries that led to the square in groups, pushing to enter the square, supporting each other, and protesting. Even blocks away from the center, we felt the presence of pepper gas, our eyes and throats burning. There was and still is great solidarity among people helping each other with lemons, vinegar clothes and milk. Divan Hotel and Harbiye Military Complex opened their doors to people who were injured, showing a solidarity of military and industrial sectors to this movement and that the escalated police violence is not accepted by many parts of society who might have been more silent or neutral previously.

We left Taksim around 10 pm and then returned at 12 am with a ferry full of people from the Anatolian side. We kept shouting slogans such as “shoulder to shoulder we stand against fascism” “the government shall resign!” and “everywhere is Taksim, everywhere there is resistance”

People came out to the streets, again completely organically till 4 am in all parts of Istanbul and Turkey.

I include here pictures from our street, Bagdat Street, a main avenue in the Anatolian side, where I would think about 10,000 walked, honked horns, and raised a great noise. I learned on the news this morning that they passed the Bosphorous Bridge on foot and cars, to the European side, where they were pepper gassed at Besiktas.

The protest continues today. The government shut down some means of public transport, and so people can’t gather and cross to the European side. Interestingly, Turkish mainstream media is not covering this much at all. There should have been live coverage in every channel.

This is a public movement, which the Turkish government will try to frame as provoked violence by what they have previously called “marginal groups”. The movement belongs to no organized group, there are groups in it from the left to the nationalist right, but no one takes dominance, and there are people from all walks of life and political persuasions. I saw many young people, middle-aged people, mothers with teenage children, everyone. All joined in bringing an end to what we see as a government which is trying to bring an Islamic type of rule (that I would call a neoliberal Islamic rule), and restricting its people’s rights and heavily injuring or killing those who use their civil rights to protest.

Please share and make sure all international media cover this mass movement and pressures the Turkish government to stop its violence against its own people.

Ayse Dayi
Founder and Collective Board member, Center for Transnational Women’s Issues